The Fall 2020 semester for the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology Students’ Association (NAITSA) was incredibly busy. Not only was the team helping the students adjust to a fully virtual semester (and getting themselves used to the new normal), but changes in the government structure also meant that NAITSA was fully taking over the school’s tutoring program for the first time.

Working with Nimbus, the student union was able to excel at their new mandates and saw 295 students, including 59 tutors, get onto the app within the first few months. By the end of their first semester, 77 tutoring sessions had been completed.

We spoke to Alessandra Medeiros, the Vice President Academic for NAIT Students’ Association, about their successful launch and how the team was able to take advantage of Nimbus’s flexibility to create a support system that met all of their needs.

NAITSA took over the tutoring program from the admin last year. How did that process go?

We had a tutor registry through the school plus staff tutors provided by the school for students. Due to some changes in the government and to the budget, that program was discontinued. So students were only left with the registry – you would find the name and then you would have to try to get a hold of the tutor yourself – call, message, email, see if the tutor would reply to you. And then it was that back and forth of “Does two o’clock work for you? No? How about 5pm? Tomorrow?” So, just trying to book that was a nightmare.

Even though we had maybe 200 or so tutors on the registry, maybe 10-15 per cent of those were actually available and willing to tutor. We heard from some students that it was very frustrating to get a hold of someone.

The Students’ Association thought that this was a great opportunity to try to revamp the program and be more effective and useful for the students. Then we got an email from Nimbus, and we were like, “What is this? Is this a spam? Or is this really a thing?” We booked a meeting with one of your other clients and they had great things to say.

Being able to schedule and make a payment through an app is [useful]. You don’t have to go with the back and forth of “How much is that gonna be?” Or, “if I do cash, can you do less?” You know, all of those things that sometimes can be awkward to deal with.

We did sign up first for the basic package in which we would be responsible for marketing and all of that and on boarding of tutors, recruiting of students and tutors and all of that. And then COVID came around. We were not on campus and it got to a point that we were like, we have either to have a full time staff to do the tutoring program or we have to outsource. And our outsourcing was to upgrade the level of help from Nimbus. So, we upgraded the package and at the beginning of November Nimbus took over the marketing. Now, basically what we do is share and try to liaison with contacts that the Nimbus team doesn’t have.

We’re very thankful for the flexibility and help that Nimbus can provide because it is very customizable. So, if we have the time and the staff again when we come back to campus, we can just take it back over or Nimbus can remain as the turnkey solution.

The Student Association thought that this was a great opportunity to try to revamp the program and be more effective and useful for the students.

You talked a little bit about customer support. Did you feel that you got enough support from Nimbus?

Yes, absolutely. I think the Nimbus representatives went above and beyond. We started with [a business development rep]. We were talking every day trying to get the deal and sign with the school.

The whole team has their personal phone number so we can text them, like, “we need help with this right now.” We’ve never heard “sorry, out of business hours” or something like that. They were always available.

How was your experience working through the pandemic and doing all this virtually?

It was interesting. That was one of the other reasons why we chose to adopt Nimbus and bring that to our students because Nimbus offers a solution for online teaching or tutoring. Knowing that the students would have that kind of support now through the pandemic and they wouldn’t be required to meet in person, that was great to see and a key factor in our decision.

In terms of doing this through the pandemic, we felt a little limited in terms of not being able to do a proper in-person on board. Plus, we could not do like a classroom pop in, you know, just knock on the door and ask to talk to the students for five minutes about the program. It is more successful than we actually thought it would be. Actually seeing that we did get tutors as soon as the program launched, to have that, I think that’s really good. Knowing that we can provide them the tools to support each other, to improve the quality of their tutoring, it makes me happy that we have that and that Nimbus can provide that to our students.

We’ve never heard “sorry, out of business hours” or something like that. They were always available.

Do you feel that Nimbus has helped you reduce your administrative workload at all?

Definitely. We could tailor the service to our needs. We went back and forth many times with Nimbus at the very beginning, when we thought we could handle some amount of work. Nimbus was flexible to our needs and adjusted the level of service as we got used to the processes and noticed we could not handle as much as we anticipated.

Do you feel that Nimbus helped your tutoring program expand or at least made it easier for you to look at expanding in the future?

I think it does. Something that we find very important is to gather data. If we are to say, okay, we want to continue, was can say it’s because this many students got help and got tutoring. Or, we can even to be able to critically look at it and be like, you know what, it’s not worth our money. I think Nimbus brings the ability to get the data that is substantial for us to make those decisions and ask ourselves: are we ready to expand?

Nimbus Learning now offers an online tutoring platform which allows students virtual access to academic support and mentorship. Click here to find out more.

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